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Did the Romans ever encounter the Vikings?

Did the Romans ever encounter the Vikings?

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Did the Romans ever scout Scandinavia for possible conquest? Or was trade ever done between them?

The question is illogical because there was no such thing as a viking in the days of the undivided Roman Empire or of the Western Roman Empire.

A viking is defined as a Scandinavian pirate or sea raider during the period of about 795 to 1100 AD at the widest. It is always incorrect to capitalize viking and use it as an ethnic word instead of an occupational word. Thus it is impossible for western Romans before 476 AD to ever encounter vikings since no Scandinavians ever went on viking raids to Roman territories until after the western Roman Empire fell.

But Roman citizens and subjects and Scandinavians did meet sometimes.

  1. For example, Roman artifacts have been unearthed from Scandinavian Roman era sites. Each artifact was either transported to Scandinavia in stages, passing from one trader to another, or else was transported to Scandinavia in one long trip. In the latter case, either Scandinavians acquired Roman artifacts in Roman territory, thus meeting Roman citizens and subjects, or else Roman traders and/or diplomats transported them to Scandinavia, thus meeting Scandinavians.

  2. And there were Saxon sea raiders who raided the "Saxon Shore" of Roman Britain and Gaul during the late empire. In those days the Romans used the word "Saxon" to refer to not only Saxons, but other northern Germanic peoples who raided Roman lands by sea. Thus it is possible that some of those "Saxons" were Angles, Jutes, and other Scandinavians. If there were any Scandinavians among those "Saxons" making proto-viking type raids on Roman lands, they might have used the word "viking" to describe their occupation.
    Of course modern historians would not approve of using the word "viking" to describe such raiders centuries before the age of vikings.

  3. And as written in andejons' answer, the Roman battles with the Cimbrians may have been with migrants from Scandinavia.

  4. There were a lot of Germanic mercenaries in the Roman army, and SOME of them MIGHT have been Scandinavians.

  5. Radagaisus, a Gothic King, led a horde of barbarians in an invasion of Italy in 405-406 before being defeated by Flavius Stilicho. The invaders included Alans, Sueves, and Vandals. I have read that some of the barbarians came from far north, and thus it is POSSIBLE that SOME of them were born in Scandinavia.

  6. And considering that there were contacts between Romans and Indians and Chinese, there could have been some unrecorded contacts of various types between Romans and Scandinavians.

So the answer is vikings no, Scandinavians yes.

I presume you're not talking about the Byzantine half of the Roman Empire here. Those ties are well known.

So, taking the subject line of your question, Romans of the western half of the Roman Empire meeting Vikings would be impossible because Rome fell before the label Viking was generally applied to Scandinavians.

Taking the text of your question, the answer regarding trade is yes, but mainly through intermediaries.

Regarding seriously scouting for invasion, I don't think so, but one cannot prove a negative.

Leaving aside the questions whether Scandinavians during the first centuries CE could be called "vikings", the answer is that they did encounter them. The Cimbrians were a people who invaded Italy and fought the Romans about 100 BCE. The Cimbrians are said to have come from the Cimbrian peninsula, identified with Jylland in Denmark.

As for Roman invasions of Scandinavia, there was really no way or point to it since they could and would not control continental Germania following the battle of Teutoburg forest.

No they did not. The romans, I suspect, never came up that far north. They did, however deal with the similar goths.

The Roman Empire, that is to say, the Western half of the Roman Empire, had fallen /collapsed around 476 AD/CE, approximately 325 years before the first Viking ships set sail from Scandinavia. When the Vikings emerged on the world historical stage, Rome, as well as much of the Italian peninsula, were slumbering through "The Dark Ages". So chronologically speaking, it would have been impossible for The Romans to have had any type of encounter with The Scandinavian Vikings.

Geographically speaking, as far as we know, the Romans never traveled towards Scandinavia; the most Northern city within The Roman Empire was Cologne in Northwest Germany/The Rhineland-(or if you prefer, York, in Northern England). The last architectural Roman remnant in Northern Europe, is Hadrian's Wall, located in the North of England-(though you could also include the Antoinne Wall in Southern Scotland).

In short, the Romans, even during the final years of their Empire, would probably have not known of the existence of Scandinavia or its indigenous peoples and certainly would have not known of or encountered The Vikings.

Viking activity in the British Isles

Viking activity in the British Isles occurred during the Early Middle Ages, the 8th to the 11th centuries, when Norsemen from Scandinavia travelled to Great Britain and Ireland to settle, trade or raid. Those who came to the British Isles have been generally referred to as Vikings, [1] [2] but some scholars debate whether the term Viking [a] represented all Norse settlers or just those who raided. [4] [b]

At the start of the Early Medieval period, Norse kingdoms in Scandinavia had developed trade links reaching as far as southern Europe and the Mediterranean, giving them access to foreign imports such as silver, gold, bronze and spices. These trade links also extended westward into Ireland and Britain. [5] [6]

In the last decade of the 8th century, Norse raiders sacked a series of Christian monasteries located in what is now the United Kingdom, beginning in 793 with a raid on the coastal monastery of Lindisfarne on the north-east coast of England. The following year they sacked the nearby Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, and in 795 they attacked again, raiding Iona Abbey on Scotland's west coast. [7]

Ancient invaders transformed Britain, but not its DNA

THEY came, they saw, they conquered. But while the Romans, Vikings and Normans ruled Britain for many years, none left their genetic calling cards behind in the DNA of today’s mainland Caucasian population. That’s the message from the most comprehensive analysis yet of the genetic make-up of the white British population.

The only invaders that left a lasting legacy are the Anglo-Saxons. As well as giving us the English language, the Anglo-Saxons, whose influx began around AD 450, account for 10 to 40 per cent of the DNA in half of modern-day Britons.

The analysis also springs some surprises. There was no single Celtic population outside the Anglo-Saxon dominated areas, but instead a large number of genetically distinct populations (see map below). The DNA signatures of people in the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall are more different than between northern England and Scotland. And there are also unexpectedly stark differences between inhabitants in the north and south of the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire.


The only appreciable genetic input from the Vikings is in the Orkney Islands, which were part of Norway for 600 years. Viking DNA accounts for 25 per cent of today’s Orcadian DNA.

“The only genetic input the Vikings had in the UK is in Orkney, where 25 per cent of DNA is Viking”

The insights come from a study of DNA samples donated by 2039 Caucasian people from around the UK. Each was selected because all four of their grandparents were born within 80 kilometres of each other, allowing the researchers to infer their grandparents’ DNA and later link it to a location. Because the grandparents were born on average in 1885, the analysis enabled a genetic snapshot of Caucasian Britain prior to immigrations since then. “Any one person’s genome is a random sample of DNA from all four of their grandparents, so it’s a way to look back in time,” says Peter Donnelly of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, UK.

To identify differences between people who have similar genetic make-ups, Donnelly’s team searched not just for single genetic alterations, but how common combinations of those alterations were inherited in large chunks of chromosomes. “That’s much richer than looking at each genetic difference individually,” says Donnelly.

The team found that the genetic profiles of the participants formed 17 distinct clusters. When they mapped this information based on where the participants lived they were surprised to see the clusters mapped almost exactly to geographical location.

The largest cluster accounted for half the participants and occupies almost the whole of eastern and southern England and most of the Midlands. This turned out to be the genetic legacy of the Anglo-Saxon invasions. Even so, at least 60 per cent of the DNA in the cluster had survived from earlier migrants (Nature, DOI&colon 10.1038/nature14230).

In fact, all 17 clusters are dominated by DNA from settlers that arrived prior to the Anglo-Saxons. By comparing the clusters with genomes from modern-day continental Europe, the team was able to piece together the general migration pattern that took place.

The first wave of arrivals crossed by land bridges, when sea levels were so low that Britain was attached to what is now northern Germany. This wave was dominated by people with genomes most similar to modern-day inhabitants of northern Germany and Belgium. In parallel, migrants from the west coast of France were arriving by boat. Traces of the combined DNA from all these three pioneer settlers forms the basis for the genetic-make up of all white Britons.

Given the cultural significance of the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, it’s surprising they didn’t leave greater genetic legacy. For the Romans and Normans, that may be because they were ruling elites who didn’t intermarry with the natives.

The overall message is that despite their large cultural impact, Britain’s main invaders left no genetic stamp of note. “When you study the past through history, linguistics or archaeology, you learn about successful people,” says Donnelly. “History is written by the winners, so much of current historical information is from a relatively small subset of people. Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses.”

“History is written by the winners. Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses”

Correction, 19 March 2015&colon When this article was first published, a detail on the map was incorrect. This has now been corrected.

Immigration Britain

What have the Romans done for us?

Before the Romans came, Britain was a highly Balkanised cluster of culturally and genetically isolated tribal enclaves. Starting in AD 43, the Romans dissolved many of these barriers in what is now southern and eastern England – partly through building roads. That same area was subsequently occupied by the Anglo-Saxons from AD 450 onwards. Only in the west and north of Britain did the tribes manage to hold on to their isolation, including genetic isolation from the Anglo-Saxons.

Are some regions of Britain inbred?

No. Although some groups are more genetically distinct, they are only subtly so, with a huge amount of commonality across all British Caucasians. It is easier for differences to accumulate and linger in smaller populations, says Donnelly, whereas they become diluted in larger groups.

Are there any medical implications of the findings?

Identification of regional genetic differences means that any harmless regional variants can be ruled out of screenings for disease-related genes. “It makes it easier to distinguish these genetic red herrings,” says Donnelly.

Could you do a global version of this genetic study?

Studies on larger populations may be easier as people would be more dissimilar from each other genetically than in a small country like the UK. But the team says it would be really interesting to study individual countries, and a similar study is already in progress in Spain.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Roman invasion left no genetic legacy”

Romans in China: The Lost Legions of Carrhae

The Romans in the first century BCE were perhaps the most growing empires around. Though the civil wars of Caesar and Pompey, and Octavian and Marc Antony dominated the scene a lot more happened around them. In 53 BCE a Roman army under Marcus Licinius Crassus, vanquisher of Spartacus and richest man in Rome, attempted to extend Roman power into Parthia, modern day Iran. He got as far as modern day Harran in southeast Turkey before he was met by a Parthian army under Surena.

Parthian horseman. notice a drawn bow while the horse is mid jump Parthians were experts at horse archery

Crassus was a little too cocky and pushed forward, thinking victory would be easy against these inferior barbarians. He was sadly mistaken as the Parthians were an efficient semi-professional army with the most elite horse archers the world had ever seen at the time. In a slaughter known as the battle of Carrhae the Romans lost nearly their entire army and Crassus was killed. The remaining 10,000 or so Roman legionaries were captured.

The Parthians had a standard practice of employing captured soldiers as border guards. By transferring the 10,000 legionaries to the eastern borders they prevented any realistic chance of escape for the Romans who likely would have simply accepted their new lot in life. Record of the soldiers vanish for about 17 years when the battle of Zhizhi was fought as a Chinese army under Chen Tang assaulted a border town known today as Taraz, located in Kazakhstan near the border of Kyrgyzstan. Chinese historians note that the defenders held their shields in a “fish scale” pattern. The fight for the town was intense but the Chinese prevailed. The Chinese, under the Han Dynasty at this point, were near the height of their power this battle represented their greatest Westward expansion and their victory was achieved in part because many of the locals defected to the Chinese out of fear.

The Chinese were so impressed by these foreign warriors that they put them into another border town, this time guarding the border between China and Tibet as Tibetan raids were not uncommon around this time. Anywhere from 100 to 1,000 or more soldiers established themselves in this town that was known by the Chinese as Liqian/Li-Jien, which is pronounced as “legion”. These men were known to use tools such as tree trunk counterweight construction devices, and to reinforce the area into a square fort, a common site in the Mediterranean but quite rare in Asia.

It seems these Romans lived peacefully in Liqian, and 2,000 years later we have DNA evidence that over 50% of the villagers in modern day Liqian have Caucasian ancestry including green and blue eyes, increased average height and other distinguishing characteristics such as distinctly Roman noses. The people in the small village are aware of and proud of their ancestry, celebrating the Romans and showing a fond interest in bulls, a heavily worshiped animal of Roman legions.

The long journey of the Roman legion(s) lost at Carrhae, a distance of over 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) and nearly 5,000 miles from Rome itself.

A great many modern historians absolutely dismiss the story of the legionaries in China as more of a fairytale than truth, though some prominent historians still argue that this sequence of events is quite possible and even the most probable of theories. Just because it is a hard to believe tale does not at all make it untrue. In every reference from the Asian sources the foreigners appear to be none other than the 10,000 legionaries captured at Carrhae. The only gap in knowledge is that the Romans transferred from Parthian control to Mongol control as the Mongols held the town at the battle of Zhizhi. It seems that either the Romans were captured and transported again, or more likely that they were sold as mercenaries.

Testudo formation, could easilly be known by the Chinese as a fish scale formation

Their “fish scale” formation at the battle is almost certainly the well-known Testudo formation, and the professional practice points to seasoned soldiers. These Romans would have had just each other for company through these many years so it’s understandable to think they had outstanding discipline and kept up their training, which would lead to them having such an impressive showing at Zhizhi that the Chinese used them to guard their own territory.

The modern descendants of the Romans are decent evidence of the Roman’s presence but two other theories are possible. The town of Liqian was near the multicultural Silk Road, therefore the Caucasian DNA could be from travelers along the road. The other possibility is that the soldiers at the battle and settlers of the Chinese town were actually descendants of Alexander the Great’s army, though this seems even more unlikely as the events are multiple generations removed from Alexander’s campaigns and the army at Zhizhi was clearly fighting in a professional and western way.

The only remaining evidence needed to authenticate the story would be Roman coins or other artifacts at Liqian. If the story is true, it is an amazing story of tragic loss followed by strict adherence to professional soldiery. By the time they settled in Liqian these soldiers would be in their forties and fifties and looking forward to retirement. Based off of the DNA of their descendants it does seem like they weren’t subject to many Tibetan raids, or perhaps they were put to the test again and finally held their own ground.

Viking settlements in Norway and Scandinavia

Throughout Scandinavia, settlements were typically small farming communities home to just one or a handful of families. Power was far from centralised, relying instead on a local chieftain and the alliances he would make along the coastline.

Lofor Viking museum on Norway's Lofoten Islands has a lot of great information about the role of a chieftain. The museum goes on to say that the chieftain would have to be generous with his wealth in order to gain support.

The Viking Village at Avaldsnes in western Norway

“We can assume that society was organised in a kind of redistribution system. This would involve the chieftain collecting taxes from the people in exchange for protection, the development of infrastructure and the organisation of other common business. In this way, the chieftain developed his power, alliances and wealth.”

Viking families lived in longhouses, a building split into sections with a fire at its heart. Benches surrounding the fire would serve dual purpose as daytime seating and nighttime beds. Typically, the building would be shared with livestock and used to store all manner of goods.

Some of the best known settlements in Norway include Borg, home to the Lofotr museum, and Avaldsnes. The latter, near Haugesund, was on a strategically important shipping route. The Avaldsnes Viking Village is well worth a visit.

Meanwhile, Denmark's Ribe is the oldest extant town in all of Scandinavia. Founded in the first decade of the eighth century, Ribe flourished as a trading centre.

See where the Vikings travelled

The Vikings have gained a reputation as bloodthirsty warriors, but they were also well-travelled traders. In this interactive map you can see where the Vikings travelled to, and how they traded and raided.

Click on the map above to learn more.

Sails allowed the Vikings to travel far and wide

A large piece of fabric changed European history forever and transformed the Scandinavians into well-travelled Norsemen. Sails made it possible for the Vikings to enter the world of trade and war.

The Vikings probably navigated by observations of:

  • Stars, sun, and moon
  • Known landmarks
  • Contemporary travelogues told through rhymes and stories
  • Bird life and presence of whales
  • Their senses
  • The weather en route to their destination

Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes of that time -- around AD 700 to 1050 -- also travelled by sea. We know this because Iron Age people living in Sweden are known to have navigated down Russian rivers. But sails meant they could travel faster and cover longer distances, even on the high seas.

"Viking Age people knew about sails, at least since the birth of Christ, because they had contact with the Romans who had sails on their ships. But it is not until around the seventh and eighth century that we see the sail introduced in Scandinavia," says Dr Morten Ravn, an archaeologist and curator from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

"We don&rsquot know why they didn&rsquot have sails earlier, perhaps they just chose not to use it" says Ravn, who believes that the Norsemen must have known about the use of sails in the seventh century.

With the sail began a historical period when the Norse reached all the way down to the Caspian Sea, Gibraltar, Iceland, Greenland, and America.

Missing history of Norse sailing

According to Ravn, researchers know little about the use of sails and maritime activities in the Nordic region between the fourth and eighth centuries. The only thing we know about ship history in Denmark during this period is based on a boat found in a bog in Nydam, Southern Denmark, in 1863.

"We do not know what was happening in between the time of the Nydam society&rsquos boats and ships of the third and fourth century AD which were exclusively propelled by oars, and the seventh century where we begin to find pictorial depictions of ships. We cannot rule out that at some point we will find a ship from the year AD 500, but right now it is one of archaeology&rsquos great questions," he says.

The Nydam boat is 23 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. It is clinker built, a technique where the edges of hull planks overlap and planks are joined end to end into a strake. This was developed in northern Europe and successfully used by the Norsemen, and it represents a step in evolution in shipbuilding between the sewn plank boats and the new Viking ships.

During the Viking Age, they developed different types of ships for different purposes -- either for crew, food, or merchandise.

Some ships were built for navigating along coasts and rivers, whereas the ships that went to England, Iceland, Greenland, and America were likely to have been large oceangoing vessels that could carry up to 80 people or a large amount of cargo.

Commerce, trade and raids

The Viking ships had to carry many men on their great conquests, such as the raids in England.

But the reputation of the Vikings in popular culture as wild and bloodthirsty men is a little too simplistic.

People living in the Viking Age were farmers, but they would also venture out to travel as Vikings and look for riches. On their travels, they would trade with the locals, but also raid, pillage, and take slaves back home. One day they would be peaceful traders, the next day brutal pirates.

"Having oars on the ships meant that they could enter a country quickly and also make a fast getaway, even under unfavourable sailing conditions. The essential characteristics for what we now call a 'hit and run attack'," says Ravn.

Today, we know of the Viking travels from archaeological finds, such as tombs and settlements, where relics of Viking merchandise are found.

Monks, Arabs, and medieval writers all spoke about the Vikings travels

Written sources indicate that Vikings travelled, traded, and raided, throughout most of Europe.

The annals from the Franciscan monastery of St. Bertin in 841 AD describe how the Danish Vikings sailed down from the North Sea and entered the English Channel to attack Rouen, a town in Normandy, Northern France. The scribes tell how the Vikings raged and plundered, used swords and fire, destroyed the town, killed and enslaved monks and other townspeople, ravaged all monasteries and settlements along the Seine or left them terrified after taking their money as bribes.

The Icelandic sagas written in the Middle Ages are another example, and perhaps the most famous written accounts of the Viking travels. One tells the story of the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada and his travels to Miklagård (modern day Istanbul). He entered into service as the Emperor's bodyguard and returned home to Norway a wealthy man.

Vikings may have been to many other places

Whilst researchers have a lot of evidence for the fact that the Norsemen were well-travelled, they may have reached many other destinations that are so far not documented.

Researchers know that they sailed down along the Spanish peninsula and into the Mediterranean, so it is possible that they continued all the way down to the west coast of Africa.

The Vikings may also have been to other places along the North American coast than the L'Anse aux Meadow in Newfoundland, where archaeologists Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad found the remains of a Viking settlement in 1960.

Did Vikings (& Romans?) get to South America?

[Although I’ve not written or spoken about this topic before, I have done my own research and I think its very possible that whites from Europe may have reached South America. I was looking particularly at possible evidence that the Romans reached as far away as Brazil, and it might be very possible.

This becomes very important, because if whites could travel to other continents thousands of years ago, then they might even be responsible for civilisations that were created there. I think it is possible that most if not all civilisations might have been created by whites. Its something I will delve into as time goes by. This is a topic of great interest to me.

In more recent times I have come across views expressed by scientists that “humans” have been building boats for at least 40-50,000 years and that “humans” were able to cross oceans with relative ease. There is a mass of circumstantial scientific evidence for it. Interestingly, the Ice Ages, may have helped to hide the evidence. Scientists have been looking for the boats that were built tens of thousands of years ago, and it is likely that they are underwater because the coast lines were farther out to sea during the Ice Ages.

Therefore my line of thinking may be close to the mark.

Here is something interesting from National Vanguard about Vikings reaching South America. But I think, they may have been preceded by even other whites! Jan]

Jacques de Mahieu, born in Marseilles in 1908, served in a French artillery detachment during World War II. After the war, to avoid persecution for his nationalistic views, he left France for Argentina, where he taught social science and founded the Institute for Human Science. Most of his later years were devoted to investigating the possibility that Vikings were the founding fathers of prehistoric South American kingdoms. He has written several books on this subject, one of which, Drakkars sur L’Amazone, has been published by Editions Copernic, 11 rue Sainte-Felicite, 75015 Paris, France.

WHEN EUROPEANS landed on the American continent some 500 years ago, they were greatly surprised to come across White Indians. There were countless witnesses to these events — conquistadors, sailors, explorers, voyagers and, more recently, engineers of Brazil’s highway department working on the trans-Amazonian freeway. They all reported their astonishment that from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, in areas where in historical times there could have been no mixture with Whites, men with White skin, often with blond hair and blue eyes, lived in the midst of tribes of Mongolian origin.

It follows that pre-Columbian America contained people belonging to the White race. The natives had no doubt about this. The chroniclers at the time of the Conquest (Spaniards, mestizos and hispanicized Indians) have described indigenous traditions centered upon culture-bearing White gods. These gods are supposed to have come across the sea from the east and later gone back, not without first announcing that they would one day return. Such tales are not the products of wild fantasy. In 1925 the archaeologists Tello and Lothrop discovered in pre-Incan caves in Peru’s Paracas peninsula approximately 700 mummies, many of which displayed blond hair and similar Nordic racial traits.

Who Were the White Gods?

In regard to North America, the riddle of the origin of the White gods is easy to solve, at least theoretically. From the beginning of the 11th to the 14th century, Norway had important settlements in Vinland, which included part of New England. As the Sagas also tell us, the Irish supported flourishing colonies further east and south in Huitramannaland (land of the White men). But in Middle and South America? Even the most fantastic hypotheses have not been lacking. It has been claimed that traces of Phoenicians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Cretans, Egyptians and even Cro-Magnons have been found in Mexico, Peru and Brazil. Nothing much has ever been proved by these various theories, but nothing should be excluded. It seems the whole world was searching for a continent before the time of Columbus, a continent which at least since the beginning of recorded history was fully known, as many European maps confirm. To be more precise, we do have an exact date for the landing of Whites in Panuco, Mexico. It was A.D. 967. This was the year, inscribed in the stone of Chichen-Itza, of the arrival of Quetzalcoatl, the culture hero of Mexico’s prehistory. What Nordic people had ocean-going ships in that era? The answer furnishes us with a useful working hypothesis.

A study of books which consumed twenty years of our time before we published a single line gave us a solid foundation for our intensive research. The traditions of the natives have handed down four names of the most important culture bearers and all four are of Scandinavian origin: Ullman (the man Ull, god of the hunt in German mythology), in Mexico named Quetzalcoatl Naymlap in Ecuador (Indian perversion of Heimlap, a “piece of the fatherland” in Norse, the ancient Danish-Norwegian speech) Votan or Wotan in the tongue of the Mayas and Chiumes Huiracocha (the Quichuas pronounce this Huir’ kosch) in Peru (from the Norse huitr, White, and goth, god)…

In 1840 Abbot Brasseur de Bourbourg stated some 300 words of the Quiche-Maya language had been derived from Danish, German, Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic and Latin roots. In 1870 Vincente Fidel Lopez found in the Quichua language more than 1,000 Indo-European root words which had obvious Germanic or Latin forms. For our part we maintain that all the personal titles of the Inca kingdom were Nordic: ayar, as the four founders of the empire were named, came from jarl, the war leader inca (or inga as the chroniclers described it) from ing, one of the Nordic suffixes for family origin auki, the title borne by the sons of the Incas until their marriage, deriving from auki, offspring kapak, title of the emperor, from kappi, brave man, hero, conqueror, knight scyri, title of the kings of Quito (Ecuador), from the comparative of skirri, sky, shining, bright, pure. As for the mythology of the Mexicans and Peruvians, it appears to be a poor copy of Scandinavian. Moreover, how shall we doubt the Nordic origin of the sauna, the use of which was very common in both the Yucatan and Anahuac?

On the basis of the Spanish chronicles, we were able to establish in the course of our research that it was Vikings from Schleswig who civilized Mexico and later, at the beginning of the 11th century, founded the state of Tiahuanacu, which stretches from present-day Colombia (where the highland of Bogota is still called Cundimanarca, a slight transformation of Kondanemarka, the royal Danish mark) south to Valparaiso in Chile. About 1290 the Scandinavians were attacked and beaten by tribes of Araukaner Indians near Coquimbo. Some of the survivors managed to make it to the sea in rafts and eventually reached the Pacific islands. Others withdrew to the mountains of Apurimac, where ten years later under the command of Manko Kapak (man kon, the kingly man, in Norse), marched on Cuzco and founded there the state of the Incas, that is, the state of the “descendants.” Others fled back into the tropical forests near the equator east of the Andes. In Paraguay, the presence of White Indians has been known since the Spanish conquest. These “Indians” preferred to burn their settlements in 1628 and become nomads rather than accept the conditions of semi-slavery offered them by the Jesuit missionaries. A few hundred of them still live in the Caaguazu and Amambay mountains. They are the Guayaki, a word in the Quichua language which means “the Whites of the plain.”

We were able to carry out a series of anthropological investigations of some of the Guayakis, thanks to the cooperation of the Paraguayan military forces. The results left no doubt. We found a degenerate population of Aryans of Nordic race mixed with local Guarani Indians, all of them illiterate, who drew “tribal symbols” for us which had the appearance of runes. At their direction and with a little luck we managed to excavate in a long-abandoned village an urn full of ceramic fragments ornamented with runes and Nordic symbols. Now we had tangible proof. Some of the designs resembled parts of the Scandinavian wall tapestry of Overhogald with its llamas. A depiction of a monk of Tiahuanacu reminded us, apart from its style, of the apostle in the Amiens Cathedral. There were also similarities to the map of Martin Waldseemuller, which in 1509, before Balboa had reached the Pacific coast of America, accurately sketched the outline of South America.

Inscriptions and Memorials

Later our discoveries multiplied. On a trail leading from Tiahuanacu to the Atlantic we found a Viking station in the neighborhood of Villarica, Paraguay, that contained an amazing Odin portrait, a tree of life, a world snake and various clearly legible runic inscriptions. On one we read dothhof om vrith rimi (cemetery by the storm-swept mountains). Next we discovered in the north of eastern Paraguay open rock caves, whose walls were covered with many half-faded runic inscriptions of different time periods. Our runologist, Hermann Munk, translated sixty-one of them. Here is a sample: uik uina klok luth thiate kle auf (war has come to Klok, praise to you … Father on high). On the peak of Itaguambype (Mason mountain) in the same locality, we found ruins of a fortified place, which measured 300 meters on its longest side, and boasted a stonewall 10 meters high and 3 meters thick. Some 160 km southwest, we came upon the walls of an important pre-Columbian settlement near the village of Tacuati In a ruined temple of 29 by 10 meters we found two runic inscriptions and a drawing of Odin on horseback. Not far from the village a small stream cascaded over a stone which bore the visible inscription, toth log (peaceful brook).

In the Brazilian state of Piaui, we explored the Seven Cities, a place with statues of human figures of European appearance and many runic inscriptions. One of the latter contained the words skea akma an matsis (“the intelligent bearded men in their residence on the plain”). To the south of Rio de Janeiro Hermann Munk deciphered an already known but still unriddled inscription in the Nordic helmet of a large figure of Aryan appearance. En hinli fill eikthils sithil esk kius means “near this rock are many oak planks for ships on the beaches of coarse sand.” Rio at that time must have been a stronghold where Viking ships put in for necessary repairs on their voyages between the ports of the Amazon and the island of Santa Catarina.

It should be pointed out that the deciphered and translated inscriptions were rarely in the classical Norse. Most were a mixture of Norse and Old Low German, especially the German typical of Schleswig in the Middle Ages.

In this article we have only been able to offer a few proofs of the presence of Vikings in pre-Columbian South America. But they leave little room for skepticism. Between 1305 and 1457, the years our inscriptions are dated, there were men in present-day Brazil and Paraguay who spoke a Schleswig dialect and wrote in runic signs. Unfortunately, it is not possible in this space to condense the contents of my five books on this subject. As we said, we have only been able to provide a few specific examples of our discoveries. It has taken thirty years of research to progress from a working hypothesis to a theory and finally to a thesis. Today the Viking kingdom of Tiahuanacu is history.

The above article, originally in French, was translated from the German rendition in Nation Europa, a conservative West German monthly.

Did the Vikings Discover America?

Did the Vikings discover America? It’s a question that requires some unpacking. To begin with, there’s the problem of the Eurocentric perspective of the word discover, which looks at the encounter with the New World from the vantage point of guys on ships and ignores the fact that indigenous people had long been calling it home. In that sense, America was probably discovered by hunters from Asia, who historians believe made their way to Alaska either on foot from Siberia via a land bridge across the Bering Strait during the last ice age or came by boat and continued southward along the coastline. In either case, these people arrived 13,000–35,000 years ago—so long ago that their descendants are considered the continent’s indigenous peoples, Native Americans.

Rephrasing the question, we can ask instead whether the Vikings were the first non-Native Americans to encounter America. The answer to that question, however, hinges on what we mean by America. If we are referring to America broadly—meaning North and South America—there is a possibility that Polynesians got there first. Genetic analysis of the sweet potato, which is native to America, has led scientists to conclude that Polynesian explorers had an early encounter with South America and took the sweet potato with them to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Scholars are convinced that this exchange took place before the time of Christopher Columbus, but they do not know whether it preceded the visits to North America by the Vikings.

Asking whether the Vikings were the first Europeans to encounter America sets the stage for the Vikings-versus-Columbus debate, but first the legendary voyage of St. Brendan has to be reckoned with. According to the epic “Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot” (recorded in Latin prose sometime between the mid-8th and early 10th century as Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis), in the 6th century Brendan, a peripatetic Irish monk, and some of his brethren sojourned west across theAtlantic Ocean in a bowl-shaped boat known as a curragh (coracle). It has been argued that Brendan reached North America, and a modern experiment proved that it is possible to make a transatlantic crossing in a curragh, but there is no archaeological evidence of an early Irish visit to North America.

So it still comes down to Columbus and the Vikings. History tells us that in 1492, while leading a Spanish-sponsored three-ship flotilla in search of a shorter route to Asia, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon America in the form of Guanahani (probably San Salvador Island, though maybe another Bahamian island or the Turks and Caicos Islands). Another Italian navigator, John Cabot, sailing for England, made his way to Canada about this time, but not until 1497, after Columbus. As a result, Columbus was nearly universally declared the “discoverer” of America.

Standing in opposition to that claim, however, were the accounts of Viking journeys to a place called Vinland that appeared in a pair of medieval Norse sagas (heroic prose poems). According to the Grænlendinga saga (“Saga of the Greenlanders”), Bjarni Herjólfsson became the first European to sight mainland North America when his Greenland-bound ship was blown westward off course about 985. Further, about 1000, Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, is reported to have led an expedition in search of the land sighted by Bjarni and to have found an icy barren land he called Helluland (“Land of Flat Rocks”) before eventually traveling south and finding Vinland (“Land of Wine”). Later, following a pair of expeditions undertaken by Leif’s brothers, Thorfinn Karlsefni, an Icelandic trader, led another expedition to Vinland, where it stayed for three years. In Eiríks saga rauða (“Erik the Red’s Saga”), Leif is the accidental discoverer of Vinland, and Thorfinn and his wife, Gudrid, are credited with all subsequent explorations.

These narratives of exploration of a place that sounded like Maine, Rhode Island, or Atlantic Canada were thought to be just stories, like “Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot,” until 1960, when Helge Ingstad, a Danish explorer, and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, were led by a local man to a site on the northern tip of Newfoundland island. There, at L’Anse aux Meadows, they discovered the remains of a Viking encampment that they were able to date to the year 1000. These dramatic archaeological discoveries proved not only that the Vikings had indeed explored America some 500 years before Columbus’s arrival but also that they had traveled farther south to areas where grapes grew, to Vinland. The Vikings had indeed visited North America, and if they did not “discover” America in the strict sense of the word, they certainly got there before Columbus did.

Greek origins

The word "barbarian" is derived from the ancient Greek word &betaά&rho&betaά&rho&omicron&sigmaf which was used 3,200 years ago when a civilization that modern-day scholars called "Mycenaean" ruled much of Greece, writes Juan Luis Garcia Alonso, a Classics professor at the University of Salamanca, in a paper published in the book "Identity(ies): A multicultural and multidisciplinary approach" (Coimbra University Press, 2017).

The word was written on clay tablets found at Pylos, a large Mycenaean city on the Greek mainland. "In the Pylos clay tablet collection we do find the word simply applied, apparently, to people from out of town," wrote Alonso.

A number of scholars have argued that the "bar-bar" in the word "barbarian" may be an attempt to imitate a stammering voice which, presumably, some non-Greek speakers might sound like to someone who speaks Greek.

By "the archaic period [2,700 years ago] there is no doubt that one of the major meanings of the word was linguistic: the Barbarians were those who did not speak Greek," writes Konstantinos Vlassopoulos, a professor of history and archaeology at the University of Crete, in his book "Greeks and the Barbarians" (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Non-Greek speaking people could be friendly or hostile. The Persians who invaded Greece were referred to as "barbarians" in Herodotus' (lived fifth century B.C.) description of their battle against a Spartan led force at Thermopylae.

Vlassopoulos notes that the ancient Greeks sometimes used the word in a confusing and contradictory fashion. One problem they had is that there was no agreement among the ancient Greeks as to who spoke Greek and who didn't, at least up until around the time of Alexander the Great. There "existed a variety of local and regional dialects, which were mutually comprehensible to a larger or smaller degree," writes Vlassopoulos.

Vikings of York

Ragnar Lothbrok, Erik Bloodaxe and Harald Hardrada are a trio of legendary Viking warriors. Towards the end of their careers, each man sailed his longships upriver to Jorvik, or York. Not one of them survived to make the journey home.

The first to die was Ragnar Lothbrok (or Shaggy Breeches). The verdict is still out on whether there really was a historical Ragnar, but the lurid account of his death was enough to put York on the map as far as the Viking Sagas were concerned.

Ragnar’s time was up when he was shipwrecked off the Yorkshire coast and fell into the hands of King Aella of Northumbria. Aella was a full-blooded historical figure whose rule of northern England was attested by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. But he ruled a kingdom that was politically unstable: for several generations, it had suffered from Viking raids, starting back in 793 when the longships swooped down on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) the spiritual powerhouse of Northumbria.

So the king was in no mood to offer hospitality to any stranded Vikings and when Ragnar refused to give his name, Aella threw him into that most unlikely of Yorkshire settings – a pit full of snakes. If we can believe the sagas, this wasn’t Ragnar’s first encounter with a serpent either. Stories have him fighting a dragon as a young man, and surviving only because he boiled his clothing in pitch beforehand. How lucky then that he was still wearing the same protective clothing and King Aelle’s snakes proved powerless against him! But the magic left as soon as Ragnar was stripped of his clothes and the snakes crowded in for the kill. With the venom entering his bloodstream, the dying man then made a terrifying prophecy – that his sons would descend on York to avenge their father’s death.

19th century artist’s impression of the execution of Ragnar Lodbrok

If the saga version of Ragnar’s death is fiction, then the Viking capture of York is undisputed fact. English sources identify an Ingwar as a leader of the “Great Heathen Army”, but it’s the sagas that take us that tantalising step back to Ragnar himself by identifying this Ingwar as one of the sons of Hairy Breeches himself – Ivar the Boneless.

York fell to the Vikings in 866 and King Aella himself died six months later in an unsuccessful attempt to retake the city. The Saga tradition, however, begs to differ and has the Northumbrian King taken alive for the son of Ragnar to torture him to the Viking version of death by a thousand cuts. According to historian Roberta Frank, however, the notorious “blood eagle” is actually a sensationalist misreading of Viking poems gloating on the birds of prey picking over the defeated Aella’s corpse.

In the end, how King Aella died is irrelevant. With the native line of kings gone, the family of Ingwar/Ivar the Boneless ruled York for the next half-century until they too were supplanted by a new King arrived from Scandinavia.

Coin of Erik Bloodaxe

This was Erik Bloodaxe, who had earned his moniker from the ruthless elimination of the four brothers who stood between him and the throne of Norway. The political turmoil in Norway eventually forced Erik to find a new kingdom overseas. Not all historians are convinced that Erik actually washed up in York and, such is the paucity of the sources, it is more than possible that the king of that name striking coins in the 940s was someone other than Bloodaxe. The Sagas, however, were in no doubt and immortalised him sitting in his royal hall in a rain-soaked Jorvik with his wife, the equally ruthless Queen Gunnhild, at his side.

Erik did not have a peaceful time in York. The displaced Ivarrsons were never far away and both Scandinavian rivals were now under threat from a third challenger coming up from the south.

King Eadred, grandson of Alfred the Great, was close enough to cast a long shadow over Northumbria itself. Erik was an obstacle to the unification of England and when he fell victim to the snake pit of Northumbrian politics – ambushed and killed by local rivals in the Pennines in 954 – King Eadred locked the kingdom of York into the new kingdom of England.

A century later, that achievement came under threat. It was exactly 200 years since the fall of York to the Vikings. The year – of course – was 1066.

The city now boasted 15,000 souls, making it the second biggest in England, but that was never going to overawe the next Norwegian King to come to York: the giant and indisputably historical Harald Sigurdsson. In his youth, he had seen the glories of Constantinople, the New Rome. There Harald learned his trade as an officer in the elite Varangian Guard, with the ageing Empress Zoe as one of the female admirers of his oversized physical charms.

Back in Norway, he claimed the throne in 1046 and then spent the next two decades justifying his nickname of Hardrada, or Hard Ruler, of the Norwegians.

When the English throne fell vacant with the death of the childless Edward the Confessor in January 1066, Hardrada was inevitably one of the hard men making a bid for the crown.

Harald – the “thunderbolt of the North” – arrived in the Humber estuary with 300 ships in September 1066. He was planning to take advantage of the uncertain loyalties of the northern elite: an elite who, just twelve months earlier, had been threatening to secede from the English kingdom again. Their beef was with their earl, Tostig Godwinson and the threat to withdraw their loyalty to the crown had been serious enough for Tostig’s most powerful ally to withdraw his support: his own brother Harold, Earl of Wessex.

A few weeks later, Tostig watched from exile as his brother was elected as King Harold II. Licking his wounds, he withdrew to Norway, but now he was back – joined with Hardrada in the invasion of England and the overthrow of his own brother.

As always, control of York was the key to controlling the north. The invasion started well, with the Norwegians defeating the local forces at Fulford on 20 September 1066. The city prepared to submit, and hostages were gathered from across the shire, to be handed over five days later at the traditional assembly point of Stamford Bridge. But instead of hostages, the Norwegians relaxing in the sun were greeted with the cloud of dust that heralded the arrival of a second English army, force-marched up from the south. The day ended with Harold Godwinson fulfilling his promise to give his Norwegian namesake six feet of English ground and no more.

Any chance of reviving the Viking kingdom of York died with Hardrada that September day. He was the last of the great Vikings to come to York.

Tours of historic York
For more information concerning tours of tours of historic York, please follow this link.

Watch the video: Vikings Floky wants to be Muslim (June 2022).


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